Sunday, October 14, 2007

Running after Chicago

Chicago got bad reviews. I'm back to running after the debacle of Chicago.

Thank God I only do marathons once because I don't ever want to go back there to run that marathon again. Here's what the director of the Chicago Marathon had to say to us about our "experience."

Dear Runners,

For 17 years I have been honored to serve as Executive Race Director of The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon, a race steeped in a 30-year tradition of providing the ultimate marathon experience for runners.

The record high temperatures and humidity at Sunday’s race made for a challenging day for marathoners. The conditions on Sunday presented me with the single most difficult decision I have ever made as race director. While that was a frustration to many, I stand behind the decision to end the race early– it was a necessary safety measure. However, I also recognize that because of the conditions and my decision, many of our runners did not have the experience they trained for and expected.

As an organization dedicated to providing the very best experience in the industry, the results have left us disappointed as well. Our team has spent the last several days reviewing the details and we are listening to runners, staff and volunteers. Rest assured that we take the day’s events - and your comments - seriously.

We are reviewing all details and feedback as we plan to continue the tradition of our race in 2008 and beyond. Offering the best experience possible to runners always has been our priority and it remains a commitment of the highest importance.

My personal gratitude goes to each of you, as well as to staff and volunteers, for participating in the race this year. I share in your disappointment, if you did not have the experience you expected.

I certainly hope to be able to greet you at our finish line in the years ahead, in the grand fashion that has characterized The LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon for so many years.


Carey Pinkowski
Executive Race Director

There's a lot of the "I" word in there from Mr. Pinkowski. Do you see a hint of an apology? A scintilla of a mea culpa? Any indication that they might have screwed up? Any word that they're going to do better next time? Any offer of a future consideration? I don't.

The system broke down due to high but predictable water consumption rates by runners and there was no means to get fluids to the back-end runners, who are the very lifeblood of this World Marathon Majors race. These runners, paying their hefty entry fees, create the huge cash pot that fuels the enormously lucrative World Majors standings from which Chicago benefits so much. Past Olympic Marathon champion Frank Shorter wrote an article which is a much better elucidation on what happened at Chicago, with a blueprint for lessons to be learned from it.

Chicago is a great city. On the other hand, Chicago was a great place to visit, its people were fabulous (like New Yorkers, except they'll actually stop, listen and answer your questions--polite midwesterners, you know) and the crowd support for its great run was stupendous. Yay for Chicagoans! They rose to the occasion. As I travelled through the battle zone that was the back end of the Chicago Marathon (prone bodies scattered about), every downed runner I saw was being attended to by somebody.

My virtual 5K. But I haven't come to bury Caesar. After literally limping out of Chicago a week ago with my worst time in my last half-dozen marathons, watching four toenails turn a deep ebony and another four turn various shades of mottled purple, I ran a race today. It was what I call a virtual race, a run in my location that equates in time, distance and topography to a race being held elsewhere. Take your pick, I either ran the new course at the Maryland Race for the Cure 5K in Hunt Valley, MD (north of Baltimore), or the 5K version of the Second Annual Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon.

RFTC5Ks. I enjoy doing Race for the Cure 5Ks around the country. I have done them in DC, Baltimore, Denver, Columbus, Minneapolis, Princeton, New York, Philadelphia and Richmond. I didn't go to this year's Maryland RFTC because I would have had to get up at 4 am to drive there and gas would have cost me $20 (thanks W for war and high gasoline prices) on top of the $40 entry fee. Sixty dollars for an ugly t-shirt.

Charlie. My good running friend Charlie (I'll actually run with him someday soon because I have recurring business in Denver currently) introduced me to the notion of the Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon which is being "run" this weekend. It has a 5K component. I can't log onto the race's site for some reason but I get the point.

Running in Denver. As recovery after my marathon last Sunday, I ran a mile on Tuesday and was pleased to bring it in under eight minutes (7:56). On Wednesday I was in Denver taking depositions and I cleared my head after an all day session of sparring with lawyers (just poke me in the eye with that sharp stick now) by running a nice easy three miles at a ten-minute pace along the Platte River with my co-counsel L. I got stuck in Denver an extra night because I missed my plane out of there on Thursday (DIA is a long way from Denver) but yesterday morning I ran another mile and a half at a 7:30 pace. I was feeling much better than during the first few miles of the marathon because my cold is almost all gone now.

The race. I figure the Maryland RFTC must be flat. The Phedippidations race, being a virtual creation in the first case, is anything I want it to be. How about flat? At 9 am sharp I set off from the end of my driveway and ran up to the W&OD Trail. There I pushed the pace down its straight and flat length to the turnaround point at 11:24. I managed a negative split of 11:16 on the return because some of the last quarter mile is sort of downhill. 22:40 for my virtual 5K. It felt great.

Susan. But before anyone says, Great Job (any time under 23:00 is a great time for me, my PR is 21:58 set in 2001), I think my "course" might be a little short. But still I was really working hard, thinking of Elijah and his battles as I tired. My good running friend Susan acquainted me with Elijah's courage (perhaps you know that my life is a search for heroes. Elijah is one). I know I had a good hard run.

I come to bury Chicago, not to praise it. As for Chicago, I want to forget it. I'll tell you this fact. Running long while on antibiotics is no fun.


Susan said...


I'm glad you got through Chicago, as I mentioned before. It has been invaluable to get the "real story" from a handful of folks who were actually there!

I am jealous that you'll soon get to run with Charlie!!!


CewTwo said...

Peter, Thanks for the shout out! I would love to run with you. I also want to thank you for the many running tips that you throw in to your blog. I have applied some of them to my training and feel that I am faster for it!

Did you run the platte near Downtown? It is very nice there and South of there.

Thanks for your blog and for being a great guy!


BTW - The Denver Marathon was run in the cold rain yesterday. No, I didn't run it yet.

Vickie said...

Peter, first, thanks for stopping by my blog (after my comment on Jeanne's). Second, I was glad I had figured out your "profession" before I read today's post (where you mentioned taking depositions). And third, it seems that the letter from the Chicago marathon race director was written so as to not place any blame on them for any wrongdoing. It skirted the issue of making any apology, and they were careful not to place blame on any particular group of runners--fast or slow. From my own experience in dealing with people, making an apology for something, even when it probably isn't warranted, immediately changes the attitude of someone who feels they were wronged. Had the race director/committee taken this approach, rather than the one they did early on, I would bet most people would have forgiven them and placed any "blame" on the circumstances of the day.

jeanne said...

I'm boycotting chicago too. Let's see: one year it was long, last year, the winner landed on his head bcs of wet decals (later removed), and this year? forget it.

I did the phedip half marathon last year on the crescent trail. my best HM time yet! I just couldn't fit it in this year though. Glad you made it back safe and sound. And thank you on behalf of elijah and his family.